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Health and safety has been a priority of the NFL and recently, the enforcement of the league’s concussion protocol has expanded due to the spike in the number of concussions documented each year.
In 2015, 271 concussions were reported; 234 of those occurred during games, and 37 happened in practice. Those numbers represent a staggering 32% total rise in concussion occurrence from 2014.
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The issue has been growing as players get bigger, faster and stronger. On Monday, the NFL and NFLPA announced the NFL Game Day Concussion Protocol and its procedures in disciplining the clubs who do not follow the new rules.
The concussion protocol will be consistently reviewed to ensure that players are receiving the care and attention reflected by the most up to date medical consensus.
The policy states that the NFL and NFLPA will each designate a representative to monitor the protocol implementation and investigate potential violations. Prior to the investigation, if the NFL and NFLPA review the findings and determine a violation, the matter will be discussed through a third party and a report will be issued to the NFL commissioner, the NFLPA executive director and the involved party.
If a matter is deemed as a violation, the following disciplinary actions will take place:
- A first violation will require the club employees or medical team members involved to attend remedial education; and/or result in a maximum fine of $150,000 against the club.
- Second and subsequent violations of the concussion protocol will result in a minimum fine of $100,000 against the club.
- In the event the parties agree that a violation involved aggravating circumstances, the club shall be subject, in the first instance, to a fine no less than $50,000. The commissioner shall determine appropriate discipline for subsequent violations involving aggravating circumstances.
- In the event that the commissioner determines that the club’s medical team failed to follow the protocol due to competitive considerations, the commissioner may require the club to forfeit draft pick(s) and impose additional fines exceeding those amounts set forth above.
With the game of football being one of the most violent in nature—it has been for decades—the actions of the NFL and NFLPA are monumental in curbing the injuries and increasing protections for players during their careers and in their post-football lives.